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Tartarstan Leader Says Chechen Fighting Hurting Peace Prospects

Moscow, April 22 (RFE/RL) - The President of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiyev, said today that continuing fighting in Chechnya is diminishing prospects for a peace settlement.

Interfax quoted Shaimiyev as saying in Kazan that he could not mediate between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev under the present bombing and shelling.

Earlier, Shaimiyev had agreed to contact the Chechen separatists and serve as an intermediary between Dudayev and Yeltsin.

Our correspondent quotes Russian interior ministry officials, who say the village of Shali, 45 kms southeast of the Chechen capital Grozny, is still surrounded by Russian troops. Our correspondent reports that local civilians fear a Russian assault.

Last week 53 Russian soldiers were killed near Shali in a Chechen separatist ambush.